November’s choice for our members was Tara Westover’s memoir ‘Educated’.
Published in 2018, Tara charts the story of her unorthodox upbringing; I say upbringing but in truth she was more dragged along than brought up. Tara is the daughter of fundamentalist Mormons from Idaho; the daughter of a man who built an underground bunker in preparation for the end of days; the daughter of a woman who forbade her from taking conventional medicine; the daughter of parents who did not believe in giving their children a formal education.
Life is harsh for the family of nine, Tara is one of seven children. When work is scarce, money is hard to come by. More significantly, Tara’s father rules over the family with a sense of entitlement that fluctuates between authoritative disciplinarian and domineering overlord. He uses his religious beliefs as a reason for his controlling nature but as the chapters unfurl this becomes more and more laughable.
Tara feels increasingly isolated as she grows up and she realises that she, more than anything, needs to escape her father’s shadow and the shadow of the mountains that encircle her home. Education becomes a hand to hold, and as she discovers the world (the Holocaust, the Civil Rights Movement- events hitherto unknown) she discovers a part of herself.
“Whomever you become, whatever you make yourself into, that is who you always were.”
Written in the style of a novel, this memoir provides an insight into a world within a world, that of the Mormon religion and way of life. Extremism in any sense is dangerous, hurtful to both the child and adult that gets lost in its wake. The hurt in Tara’s voice is powerful and how she manages to harness that hurt to drive herself forward is truly impressive. This memoir provides the reader with much to ponder about the nature of self-efficacy, mental health and family.
“My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.”
I can’t say that I was always convinced by Tara’s seemingly conflicting explanation of certain events. These inconsistencies may just be reflective of her turbulent adolescence. That her voice doesn’t seem overly confident may just be a result of her still coming to terms with her past. At 32, her story is far from over.
Our pick for December is Jodi Picoult’s latest novel ‘A Spark of Light’.
Jodi is an author who needs no introduction and although this is my first encounter with her work, I am of course familiar with novels like ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ and ‘Small Great Things’. This story, her 23rd novel, takes place in an abortion centre in Mississippi, where a gunman has taken staff and patients hostage. Set against a backdrop of federal state laws and personal beliefs, Picoult introduces us to a myriad of divisive and controversial characters.
Pop into Books@One to get your copy of both novels*
The Books@One book club is always on the lookout for new members, it’s a lovely way to share your enthusiasm for all things book-related!
*We still have copies in stock! Online ordering for these titles will be unavailable until further notice as we're working on that side of things - but please do email us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you want a copy of these books posted!